Everyone wants to give the latest and greatest toy or gadget to their children for the holidays.  When I was 10, it was a Cabbage Patch Kid, and now with most ten-year old’s it’s something that starts with an i.  But beware, parents – while smart toys may have lots of appeal, they may not be safe.

Internet connected toys are often equipped with cameras,sensors, tracking capability, and more. Some even know your child’s voice or yours.  These toys provide educational and valuable experiences, but they also collect data on those interactions. And further, the toys, like any other connected device, are capable of being hacked or having the data misused.

Take a look at the toys’ privacy and data collection policies before you plug them in. Any smart toy should have a robust and clear privacy and data collection policy that complies with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) and that clearly indicates to parents, what data is collected and how it’s used.  Key provisions of COPPA require that if the toy is collecting information from a child under 13, the toy company must reveal its privacy practices, ask for parental consent, and give parents the right to have your child’s personal information deleted.  If you don’t see these policies in place, consider a less cool toy. Teddy bears are always nice.

You can also do some due diligence. According to the FTC, one way is to look up the name of the toy and add the words “complaint,”“security,” and “privacy.” You will get a read on whether this particular toy is recalled, has been the subject of consumer complaints, or named in any lawsuits.

Other questions to consider, per the FTC: 

Does the toy come with a camera or microphone? What will it be            recording, and will you know when the camera or microphone is on?

Are you okay with a toy that sends email to your child or connects to social media accounts?

Can parents control the toy and be involved in its setup and management?

What kind of information does the toy collect when your child plays with it?

Where is this data (including pictures and recordings) stored, how is it shared, and who has access to it? Does the toy company give parents a way to see and delete the data?

To add to the stress of the season now you have to do due diligence on the presents? Yes, but rest assured, there is a silver lining: even if your kids aren’t listening to you, their toys may be.